“Hindsight is the foresight of a gobshite” was uttered to me once by a team’s selector in the aftermath of a drawn game. He had no interest in my analysis of what may have been done better during different times of the game.
Before the game nobody predicted the possible change in Clare’s set up if they were in trouble. Substitutes for both teams like Ian Galvin, David Fitzgerald , Aaron Shanagher , Jason McCarthy, Jason Flynn, Sean Loftus and Paul Killeen had major roles in Saturday’s game. Who would have foreseen that?
The sweeper was pronounced dead after Wexford’s loss to Clare. But Colm Galvin’s skills as a sweeper showcased his ability to read a game. His vison when a passing to a team mate revived the Clare challenge. He got stuck in to rucks when his defenders were under pressure and was always an option for his team mates when they were struggling in possession. It was an excellent example to any young hurler.
With the benefit of hindsight we look back at what happened in the game and explore areas where the teams could focus on to win the replay.
1.Colm Galvin’s Role
In the sweeper role Galvin finished normal time with:
- 19 possessions
- Scoring 1 point.
- Completing 12 successful passes.
- Setting up 4 points.
- 5 of his passes were won back by Galway.
- On 1 occasion he was turned over.
Note: In the second half of extra time it was Galvin’s clearance which led to Aaron Shannager’s goal.
(An example of his influence is in the video below)
Clare in the opening 18 minutes of the game resembled Muhammad Ali after the fourth round of his 1963 boxing match against Henry Cooper. Ali was knocked out just as the round came to the end.
During the break in between the rounds he sat in his corner dazed with no idea what was happening. His corner needed to slap him in the face in order to keep him awake.
Conor Cooney had scored a goal from a mixture of Johny Glynn persistence and Clare handling errors. Puck outs being placed to Clare players were being read by Galway forwards and clearances were being gobbled up by the Tribesmen’s superior numbers on the breaks.
In that bout in 1963, Ali’s saving grace was the use of the much maligned smelling salts by his coach Angelo Dundee. It woke him up and helped him get back up on his feet to focus on the 5th round.
The idea of using smelling salts is to receive a surge of oxygen after inhaling. The rampant flow of oxygen to the brain replenishes consciousness and makes one superiorly alert or aloof instantaneously.
Clare needed a surge of oxygen to keep them in the championship, they were on the ropes. Their management began to realign their team and change their set up between the 13th to 18th minute of the first half.
By 18th minute, the message had been received by the whole team on the field and it was clear what Galvin’s role was as a sweeper.
Like the effect of the smelling salts on Ali’s body, the Clonlara man refocused the Clare team in defence and in possession.
Galvin exerted his influence on the game by reading the play and gaining possession ahead of Galway forwards. In possession he began attacks by working the ball through the lines of the field.
His presence gave the Clare wing backs the option to follow their men up the field in order to put pressure on Galway’s deliveries and shots on goal. Donal Touhy also had an option of a spare man when going short with any puck outs.
The Banner men were back on their feet and beginning to throw punches which were hurting the Galway team. Like Clare, Ali was rejuvenated in the 5th round and after two minutes and fifteen seconds into the fifth round, the fight was stopped and Ali declared the winner.
From the 13th minute of the game to the end of normal time, Clare won the encounter with a score line of 25 points to Galway’s 1-17.
It looks like Clare will have to go with the tactic from the start of Sunday’s replay and force Galway to come up with an answer to it. The Clare team looked very comfortable with Galvin in his role and he brought players in to the game who were struggling to win possession.
2.Galway struggled to deal with a sweeper for the first time.
When Galway previously played against a sweeper they successfully negotiated the tactic over the past two seasons. On Saturday when Clare changed their tactic they struggled to get any rhythm in their play.
Galway’s clearance retention rate from defense to attack was 60% in the first 18 minutes of the game. The Tribesmen finished the game with a retention rate of 37.5% from their clearances.
Some of the credit must go to Clare but also Galway needed to look at themselves with regards their use of Johnny Glynn and their spare defender.
Use of Aidan Harte.
He looked like he was the free the defender on most occasions during the second half of normal time, yet as a free man he only had 4 possessions in the 38 minutes of the second half.
Clare’s use of possession totally took Harte out of the game. Clare exposed the space left by the Galway half backs as they followed the Banner men’s half forward line up the pitch.
(See the graphic below where Clare are able to get the ball over the Galway half back line and in front of Shane O Donnell for a point. Aidan Harte is protecting the area in front of Conlan but not close enough to put pressure on O’ Donnell)
(O’Donnell’s score in real time)
In extra time, Sean Loftus was employed as the free player in the Galway defence and he had 5 possessions in that period. He also pressurised Sedna Morey while hitting a shot under the Cusack stand which resulted in a Clare wide.
Loftus’s fresh legs may have been a big factor in getting on possession but he definitely has given Michael O Donoghue an option for the replay.
Deliveries to Johnny Glynn and Conor Whelan.
Galway’s use of Johnny Glynn and Conor Whelan against Kilkenny in the Leinster Final created havoc for the Cats defence. Glynn’s ability to win or break the ball in the air complimented Whelan’s ability to cover ground and mop up possession on the breaks.
Clare changed their approach to defending Glynn’s threat by having a spare man in the defence. They also pushed up on Galway’s deliveries so the clearances in to Glynn were not as precise.
Galway became predictable with their clearances and the Galway system started to unravel. Clare began to read the long deliveries and mop up Glynn’s breaks. Defenders could also afford to attack any clearances as they had the buffer of Galvin if the ball was missed.
Glynn may now be a better option at wing forward to counter act Clare’s tactic. It may also refocus the Galway deliveries as they can put clearances in to green grass in front of a forward rather than directly on top of Glynn.
(Galway can get back to feeding their full forward line and take the Clare spare man out of the game. They have done this in previous games. See video below against Wexford)
Galway can also mix their play by running the ball out of defence.
Galway can also gain the upper hand by mixing their play by running the ball out of their defence in order to transfer the ball to their deep half forwards. While the example below is when Clare had not pushed up on Galway. It shows an area where can create scoring chances from distance if their half forward line get free at midfield.
The tactic would be for the defender to run past his wing forward and draw as many Clare players as possible. The Galway defender when under pressure can then transfer the sliotar back to the free Galway forward.
(See the video below as to how Galway did this with Adrian Tuohy and Cathal Mannion)
3.Galway’s use of the ball by Padraic Mannion ,Aidan Harte, David Burke and Johnny Coen is a key performance indicator for this Galway teams performance.
Key to Galway’s success and the functioning of their forward line is the transitioning of the sliotar from defence to attack by Johny Coen, David Burke, Aidan Harte and Paraic Mannion.
After 18 minutes of last Saturday’s game the retention rate of clearances from these 4 players was 77.77%. By the end of normal time the retention rate of these four players clearances had reduced to 50%.
In the first 18 minutes of the game these four players made a total of 16 clearances in to their forward division. Clare changed their set up and for the next 52 minutes plus added time these Galway players made a total of 8 clearances.
In normal time the change of tactic did allow David Burke get higher up the pitch and he contributed 3 points over the 70 minutes for Galway with Coen adding a point to Galway’s final tally.
We compare the performances of these four players over Galway’s last 3 games in the tables below.
In the drawn Leinster Final versus Kilkenny:
Galway had a 38.88 % retention rate from the clearances made by Coen, Burke, Harte and Mannion.
In the Leinster Final replay the versus Kilkenny.
Galway had a retention rate of 55.88% from clearances made by the 4 key Tribesmen with Aidan Harte also contributing with 2 points from play.
In the drawn All Ireland Semi Final versus Clare:
Galway finished the game with a retention rate of 50% from these players clearances.
4.Duggan’s influence growing for Clare.
Since coming on as a sub in the 2017 All Ireland Quarter Final against Tipperary, Peter Duggan has given the Clare team an extra option in the air.
The Clooney Quin club man has taken the pressure off John Conlan in 2018. It is no coincidence that Conlon is enjoying one of his best season in a Clare jersey due to Duggan’s presence in the half forward line.
Saturday’s game was no different and some key stats below Duggan show his importance.
Duggan’s overall stats from play against Galway in normal time
- 3 points from play.
- Turned over Galway possession on 5 occasions.
- Won 3 Clare puck outs.
- Won 2 Galway puck outs.
- Successfully broke 3 aerial balls to a Clare player.
Duggan had many standout moments in the drawn All Ireland semi final on Saturday. His wonder point in the 63rd minute was reminiscent of Ginger McLoughlin’s try against England in the 1982.
Like the try, Duggan’s point was agricultural, it may not have looked easy on the eye but there was skill involved in its execution and it was beautiful.
McLoughlin’s try on that day was a defining moment for Irish team’s season. He went over the line with an English winger on his back as the rest of the English pack tried to steer him in to touch.
As Duggan scythed through the tackles of Cathal Mannion, Adrian Tuohy, Aidan Harte and Paul Killeen he sent an important message to Galway. There was still energy left in this Clare team despite the huge effort which had been exerted by the Banner men to get back in to the game.
Duggan has scored 2 goals and 70 points in this years championship to date. He has an average win rate of 5 aerial duels per game for Clare in this year’s championship.
He is wiling to do the donkey work and break possession for the rest of his Clare team mates. His two points in the dying minutes of the Tipperary game shaped Clare’s season and is one of the main reasons they will be still hurling on the August bank holiday weekend.
5. Shanagher’s return gives Clare two options for their players when clearing under pressure.
Shanagher’s return from the cruciate injury has given Clare an attacking option that they may need to use from the start of the replay.
In the game he scored a goal in extra time and broke a high ball for a John Conlon score in normal time. He also won two other possessions in which resulted in wides.
Shanagher in the team can take further pressure off John Conlan in the full forward line. His inclusion gives the Clare players an option if they are unable to place clearances in to green grass for their forwards to run in to. They have two high ball options with himself and Conlon in the full forward line.
It will also ask further questions of Galway’s spare defender as if Conlon and Shanagher are causing the full back line trouble, it may draw the spare defender closer to the Galway goal.
In turn this could free up space between the two defensive lines for players like Reidy, O Donnell , Duggan and Collins to expose.
Galway have shown ability to learn things from a performance. In the Leinster Final replay they exposed Kilkenny in areas in which failed to in the drawn game.
Like defending Stephen Cluxton’s kick outs for Dublin. It may be a case that Galway need to push up on Clare puck outs and trust their defence from Tuohy’s deliveries.
Clare maybe need to just start the same way as they finished and see what areas they get shut down in by the Galway team. Despite a disastrous start, to overhaul their game plan mid game was impressive. They now have two options in Galvin as sweeper or they can go with Shanahger and Conlon in the full forward line.
History tells us that the replays are never the same as the drawn encounter but this years championship has buck a few trends already.